James Frey has a new book out. Bright Shiny Morning. After the controversy with his ‘memoir’, A Million Little Pieces, Frey decided to write another book – a novel, this time. His last book should have been called a novel too. So what? It’s a good book isn’t it? And more important from a business perspective, it sold lots of copies, right? So who cares what you call it?
That said, Frey could have avoided all the bad press and basked in the glory of a brilliant manuscript born out of his experience but exaggerated for literary effect – you know a novel.
Modern memoir is filled with all kinds of content that may or may not be 100% accurate, depending on who you ask. It’s the nature of the genre. Surely Oprah was aware of that as she read through Frey’s unconventional text.
So why the anger? Maybe because Frey lied to Oprah’s face. He misrepresented himself. The book was his to write as he wished, but to sit across from the most powerful woman in publishing and fail to mention that some of the specific passages the two of you were discussing didn’t actually happen, not exactly how you wrote about them – that was a bad choice.
But we’ll never know just whose choice that was. Was it Frey’s? The producer who wanted to deliver the edgiest guest? The publishers who wanted to give this incredible tale more credibility? Or a cluster of all these conspiring to create infamy. Literature does not occur in a vacuum. There is a huge marketing monster to feed.
It doesn’t matter whose idea it was because Frey complied. He went along with it and faced the consequences. And then he sat back down and wrote again. Newsflash: writers make things up. And often, it’s good for business.
So what do you think, will Oprah give him another chance?